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Rashid weaves his magic to extend tough sequence

 

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Paul Stirling

Paul Stirling

�INPHO/Oisin Keniry

Paul Stirling

A landmark match but no landmark result for Ireland as they lost their 1,000th game and their 11th consecutive T20 international against Afghanistan since the debut of Rashid Khan.

The world's leading bowler in the shortest format continued his stranglehold over the Ireland batsmen in Greater Noida as he took three wickets in 13 balls and restricted Ireland to 172-6, having been 110-1 after 12 overs.

The significant overs of the match, however, were 11-13 in the Afghanistan reply as Samiullah Shinwari and Najibullah Zadran hit 36 to get the hosts ahead of the Duckworth/Lewis par score; two overs later the rain, which seems to follow Ireland all round the world, arrived to end hopes of a late fightback.

The 11-run margin was the narrowest defeat in the one-sided sequence which started three years ago and will give Ireland confidence that they can get even closer in the second of the three-match series tomorrow (08.30 GMT).

The pattern of the match, however, was so familiar. Paul Stirling and Kevin O'Brien gave Ireland a fast start - 63 off the first six overs before O'Brien was dismissed to the last ball of the powerplay - and the introduction of Rashid Khan halted Ireland's momentum.

Ireland then took four wickets in the first eight overs before Afghanistan hit back with a lower order partnership - this time, 63 for the fifth wicket in just 44 balls before Boyd Rankin ended the stand with what proved to be the last ball of the match.

Ireland's strike bowler, however, remains expensive on the slower pitches in India. Although this was his seventh wicket in 16 overs in T20 games against Afghanistan in the country, they have cost 171 runs.

It was inevitable that Andrew Balbirnie would turn to his most experienced bowler to break the partnership but his first two overs had gone for 28 - albeit in the powerplay - while Josh Little had conceded 16 runs and Craig Young just 12 in their first 12 balls.

Simi Singh had made the breakthrough with two wickets in his second over - the fifth of the innings - and followed up with a brilliant piece of fielding to run out Afghanistan captain Asghar Afghan before he had faced a ball.

After superb work from Lorcan Tucker to take off the bails from Harry Tector's throw and run out Karim Janet, Afghanistan were 70-4 and behind the rate but that was as good as it got for Ireland.

Stirling and O'Brien had shared 10 fours in the Ireland powerplay with the latter taking a particular liking to Mujeeb Zadran but he undid all that good work, which included two sixes off the mystery spinner, by trying to sweep a ball on leg stump and missing it, having already taken 16 off the over.

Stirling reached his 24th half-century in T20 cricket from 38 balls with his second six but three balls later he was Rashid's first victim, beaten in the flight and giving him a high return catch.

Balbirnie, for the third time in four T20Is fell to Rashid, bowled by his googly, the ball after sweeping him for a third boundary, while Tector, in his first game against Afghanistan, reversed swept his first ball from Rashid and finished the innings in style, with a four and a six in the last two overs, while two wickets fell.

Belfast Telegraph